Climate Change, Energy and your farm
Energy reform will continue to be discussed as the population grows and energy costs increase. The lines between energy and greenhouse gases (GHG) have been blurred and are not likely to be discussed separately in the near future. Direct regulation by EPA offers the public less opportunity to have a voice compared to legislative efforts. EPA, if left to regulate carbon with no oversight can choose industries that will be winners and losers. Recently all levels of government have been involved with the following activities:
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Copenhagen in December, had 128 countries attend and five countries signed the Copenhagen Accord pledging to reduce carbon emissions. However the newly appointed executive secretary does not believe the November meeting in Cancun, Mexico or other meetings in his lifetime will result in an international agreement on how to lower carbon emissions.
Regulators and elected officials in Washington, DC have made some bold steps in terms of energy policy and greenhouse gas emission regulation. Here is a snapshot of what has been happening in DC:
- EPA issued a rule in 2009 that declared GHGs harmful to human health.
- 2008 Farm Bill initiated an Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets within USDA
- EPA announced that, starting in 2011, they will begin regulating stationary agricultural sources that emit GHG (i.e. livestock farms).
- In June 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would establish a cap and trade energy program.
- In December 2009, during an international meeting on climate change, the U.S. signed the Copenhagen Accord and pledged to reduce GHGs by 17 percent over the next 10 years.
- In May 2010, USDA and the EPA signed an interagency agreement to promote renewable energy generation while reducing GHG emissions from livestock operations.
Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, created by state governors, developed its final recommendations in May 2010. The 28 page document outlines what a cap and trade program should look like in the Midwest (Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Manitoba, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin).
Michigan counties are receiving grants to develop a climate action plan, similar to that of the state of Michigan's. County climate action plans are often developed by interested individuals that live in the city and see 60 percent of the land base as agriculture and assume agriculture contributes to 60 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. Even in Michigan's Climate Action Plan, agriculture emissions were estimated to contribute to only 3 percent of the state's total emissions.
Townships are eligible for up to $10 million in grants for local governments to establish and implement climate change initiatives. Available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the grant seeks proposals that create replicable models of sustainable community action, generate cost-effective and persistent greenhouse gas reductions, and improve the environmental, economic, public health or social conditions in a community.
Cities have joined in the greenhouse gas discussion with climate change impacts being evaluated, recycling programs developed and smart growth plans implemented. Some Michigan cities have moved forward with sustainability plans and mandating LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified aspects of all new construction. At the Climate Summit for Mayors the theme was "Cities Act while Nations Talk."